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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Proverbs 22



Verse 1

"In our modern, hedonistic, pleasure-seeking culture, character and reputation have a way of being ignored if not actually denigrated. True value must be seen, however, not in what one has but in what he or she truly is. A good name is an asset whose currency is unaffected by the boom or bust of the material world." [Note: Merrill, p495.]

Verse 6

"Train" (Heb. hanak) means to dedicate (cf. Deuteronomy 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 7:5; Daniel 3:2). It has the idea of narrowing and in this verse implies channeling the child"s conduct into the way of wisdom. That guidance might include dedicating him or her to God and preparing the child for future responsibilities and adulthood. [Note: Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p252.]

"In the way he should go" is literally "according to his way." It may mean according to his personality, temperament, responses, or stage in life. On the other hand, it could mean the way in which he ought to go. The Hebrew grammar permits either interpretation. However the context favors the latter view. "Way" in Proverbs usually means the path a person takes through life, not one"s personality, disposition, or stage in life. Consequently, the verse is saying the parent should train up a child in the way of Wisdom of Solomon , i.e, to live in the fear of God. [Note: Ross, pp1061-62; Toy, p415; McKane, p564; Kidner, p147; and Greenstone, p234.]

The second part of this verse has challenged the faith of many a godly parent. Obviously many children who have received good training have repudiated the way of wisdom later in life. The explanation for this seemingly broken promise lies in a correct understanding of what a proverb is.

"A proverb is a literary device whereby a general truth is brought to bear on a specific situation. Many of the proverbs are not absolute guarantees for they express truths that are necessarily conditioned by prevailing circumstances. For example, Proverbs 22:3-4; Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 22:11; Proverbs 22:16; Proverbs 22:29 do not express promises that are always binding. Though the proverbs are generally and usually true, occasional exceptions may be noted. This may be because of the self-will or deliberate disobedience of an individual who chooses to go his own way-the way of folly instead of the way of wisdom . . . It is generally true, however, that most children who are brought up in Christian homes, under the influence of godly parents who teach and live God"s standards (cf. Ephesians 6:4), follow that training." [Note: Buzzell, p953.]

This proverb clearly does not state a Scriptural promise. Rather, the revelation of Scripture elsewhere is that God allows people to make their own decisions. He does not force them to do what is right (cf. Proverbs 2:11-15; Proverbs 5:11-14; Ezekiel 18:20).

"In sum, the proverb promises the educator that his original, and early, moral initiative has a permanent effect on a person for good. But that is not the whole truth about religious education." [Note: Waltke, The Book . . . 31 , p206.]

Verse 7

This verse does not forbid borrowing. In Israel the Jews borrowed from one another. The Mosaic Law permitted this but condemned charging other Jews interest ( Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19; Deuteronomy 28:12; Deuteronomy 28:44), though the Israelites could charge foreigners interest ( Deuteronomy 23:20). The New Testament does not forbid borrowing either, though it forbids not paying debts ( Romans 13:6-8). It may be unwise to go into debt in some situations, but it is going too far to say that the Bible condemns going into debt.

"While a certain amount of honest debt is expected in today"s world, and everybody wants to achieve a good credit rating, we must be careful not to mistake presumption for faith. As the familiar adage puts it, "When your outgo exceeds your income, then your upkeep is your downfall."" [Note: Wiersbe, p93.]

This verse warns the borrower that he puts himself in a vulnerable position by borrowing. He becomes dependent on another or others by borrowing. An unscrupulous lender might take advantage of him. Most lenders will not take unfair advantage of someone who borrows from them, but the borrower should be aware of this possibility.

"The verse may be referring to the apparently common practice of Israelites selling themselves into slavery to pay off debts (see Exodus 21:2-7). It is not appreciably different from the modern debtor who is working to pay off bills." [Note: Ross, p1062.]

Verse 8

This verse provides encouragement for the oppressed. The last line assures the sufferer that God will eventually break the oppressing rod of the person who sows iniquity.

Verse 16

The gifts given to the rich are to secure their favor, not out of love for them (cf. Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 19:17; Proverbs 28:3).

Verses 17-21

A. Introduction to the30 Sayings22:17-21

As in chapters1-9 , the writer began this section of the book with an exhortation to hear and give heed to the words of wisdom that follow. The reason the writer gave the following proverbs introduces the30 sayings.

"This extended introduction reminds us that the wise sayings were not curiosity pieces; they were Revelation , and revelation demands a response." [Note: Ross, p1065.]

First, there is a call ( Proverbs 22:17) followed by three motivations: a pleasing store of wisdom ( Proverbs 22:18), a deeper trust in the Lord ( Proverbs 22:19), and a greater reliability ( Proverbs 22:20-21). [Note: Kidner, p149.]

The Hebrew word translated "excellent things" ( Proverbs 22:20; slswm) has also been rendered "heretofore" (RV margin), "triply" (Septuagint, Vulgate), and "30 sayings" (RSV, NIV). Since30 sayings follow, that seems to be the best option for translation. "Him who sent you" ( Proverbs 22:21) is probably the original reader"s teacher, who may have been his father.

"Notwithstanding the difficulties of the text, the general thought of the paragraph is plain: the pupil is to devote himself to study, in order that his religious life may be firmly established, and that he may be able to give wise counsel to those who seek advice." [Note: Toy, pp424-25.]

"Even the most brilliant moral sayings are powerless without personal application." [Note: Waltke, The Book . . . 31 , p223.]

Verses 17-22


A third major section of the Book of Proverbs begins with Proverbs 22:17. This is clear from several indicators. The proverbs lengthen out again from the typical one-verse couplet that characterizes Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16 (cf. chs1-9). Also, the phrase "my son" appears again, as in chapters1-9. Third, we read in Proverbs 22:20 (in the Hebrew text) that a group of30 sayings will follow. The NASB translators rendered this verse, "Have I not written to you excellent things ..."

The emphasis in Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34, which includes the fourth collection of proverbs (six more sayings of the wise, Proverbs 24:23-34), is on the importance of applying the instruction previously given.



The value of wisdom


The examples of wisdom

Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16

The application of wisdom

Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34

The reason many scholars believe Solomon did not write the36 sayings of the wise ( Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34) is this: the title, "These also are sayings of the wise [or sages, plural]," in Proverbs 24:23 a suggests several writers rather than one.

"The plur. sages points to the existence of a special class of wise men, who were oral teachers or writers. The utterances of these men formed a distinct body of thought, part of which is preserved in the Book of Proverbs . . ." [Note: Toy, p451.]

The word "also" in Proverbs 24:23 a apparently refers to the similar title in Proverbs 22:17, suggesting that these sages, not Song of Solomon , wrote the proverbs in Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22.

The36 sayings divide into two groups: "the 30] words of the wise" ( Proverbs 22:17), and six more "sayings of the wise" ( Proverbs 24:23).

Many scholars have called attention to the similarities between Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22, the30 sayings of the wise, and The Instruction of Amen-em-Ope. [Note: E.g, McKane, pp369-74. For an introduction to other similar ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature, see Harris, pp555-57; or Waltke, The Book . . ., pp28-31 , who cited eight other similar pre-Solomonic Egyptian texts.] The Instruction of Amen-em-Ope is a piece of Egyptian wisdom literature that scholars have dated in the New Kingdom period (ca1558-1085 B.C.). Both sets of proverbs contain30 sayings each, both use the "my son" terminology, and both follow the same structural design. This design includes an introduction stating why the writer gave the instruction followed by30 independent sections of sayings on diverse subjects. However, a difference between these two collections is significant. The writer or writers of the biblical Proverbs , evidently not Song of Solomon , said their purpose was that the readers" "trust may be in the Lord" ( Proverbs 22:19). However, Amen-em-Ope expressed no such hope or any belief in a personal God. As mentioned earlier, the biblical writers" purpose and faith distinguish the Book of Proverbs from all other ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature. [Note: For an introduction to the study of comparative ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature, see Waltke, "The Book . . .," pp221-38.]

Verse 22

B. The30 Sayings22:22-24:22

Waltke titled the first10 sayings "a Decalogue of sayings about wealth." [Note: Ibid, p225.]

Verse 22-23

Note the chiastic structure in these four lines that unifies the thought of the passage: violence, litigation, litigation, violence. The point of this first saying is that God will avenge the poor on those who oppress them.

Verse 24-25

The influence of a hothead can prove detrimental (cf. Proverbs 1:10-19; Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 14:29; Proverbs 15:1).

Verse 26-27

Solomon previously warned of the folly of making promises to cover the debts of others ( Proverbs 6:1-5; Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 20:16). This is a good way to lose what one has.

Verse 28

Moving boundaries in fields, usually marked by stone pillars or piles of stones (cairns), resulted in individuals losing and gaining property and wealth. In Israel, this was also a sin against God, since God owned and apportioned all the land (cf. Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17; Job 24:2). The warning is against appropriating someone else"s property, not disrespecting historical markers.

"Probably the boundary stone was moved annually only about an inconspicuous half-inch, which in time could add up to a sizeable land grab." [Note: Ibid, p235.]

Verse 29

The quality of a person"s work, not his bribes or flattery, will ultimately determine how his career progresses. Therefore a person should seek to improve his or her skills.

"Anyone who puts his workmanship before his prospects towers above the thrusters and climbers of the adjacent paragraphs." [Note: Kidner, p150.]


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 22:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

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